The Psychosocial Impact of Spouse-Caregiver Chronic Health Conditions and Personal History of Cancer on Well-being in Patients With Advanced Cancer and Their Caregivers

Dana Ketcher, Amy K. Otto, Susan T. Vadaparampil, Richard E. Heyman, Lee Ellington, Maija Reblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Context: Caregiving during advanced cancer presents many physical and psychological challenges, especially for caregivers who are coping with their own history of cancer or their own chronic health conditions. There is growing recognition that caregiver health and patient health are interdependent. Objectives: The objective of this study was to use quantitative and interview data to examine and explore the impact of a caregiver's personal cancer history and chronic health conditions on the psychosocial well-being of both the caregiver and patient. Methods: This was a secondary analysis of data from 88 patients with advanced lung/gastrointestinal cancer and their spouse-caregivers. Participants self-reported subjective health, chronic health conditions (including cancer), anxiety and depression symptoms, and social support and social stress. Caregivers self-reported caregiving burden and preparedness for caregiving. Caregivers also completed semistructured interviews. Results: Participants were mostly white, non-Hispanic, and in their mid-60s. Caregivers reported 1.40 (SD = 1.14) chronic conditions on average; 11 reported a personal history of cancer (“survivor-caregivers”). The number of caregiver chronic health conditions was positively associated with patient depression symptoms. Patients of survivor-caregivers also reported more depression symptoms than patients of caregivers without cancer (t(85) = −2.35, P = 0.021). Survivor-caregivers reported higher preparedness for caregiving than caregivers without cancer (t(85) = −2.48, P = 0.015). Interview data enriched quantitative findings and identified factors that may drive patient depression, including emotions such as resentment or guilt. Experiencing cancer personally may provide caregivers unique insight into the patient experience. Conclusion: Providers should be aware of caregiver chronic conditions and cancer history, given the potential negative effects on patient psychosocial well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare no conflicts of interest. This work was supported by the American Cancer Society [grant number MRSG 13–234–01-PCSM ] and the National Institutes of Health [grant number T32CA090314 ].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine


  • Multiple chronic conditions
  • cancer survivors
  • depression
  • family caregivers
  • psychosocial oncology
  • spouses


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